FUTURE Hall of Famer Danny Ildefonso sees so much potential in June Mar Fajardo that he predicts in two years' time, his Cebuano apprentice will be the next PBA Most Valuable Player.
“Napakasipag ng batang yan. Sabi ko nga ituloy lang niyang uhaw sa pag-aaral, at magdasal na malayo siya sa injury, after two seasons pwede siyang maging MVP,” said the 35-year-old Petron team captain of the player he has taken under his wings this season.
“Masipag kasi talaga si June Mar sa practice at kahit sa laro, tapos masunurin pa at marunong tumanggap ng pagkakamali,” Ildefonso added.
Much of that potential - as well as the moves Fajardo learned in regular practice sessions with Ildefonso - was on display on Saturday night in a road game in Panabo, Davao del Norte in what was easily the Cebuano's finest game since being drafted No. 1 overall by Petron at the start of the season.
Going head to head against Rain or Shine's 7-foot-3 import Bruno Sundov, the 6-9 freshman scored 20 points on 9-for-11 shooting, grabbed 13 rebounds and was named the game's best player in a 87-79 win that gave the Boosters a share of the lead in the Commissioner's Cup.
Ildefonso was one of those impressed with Fajardo's performance, but declined to grab credit for the big man's improved play.
“Nagsimula ko siyang turuan nung lagi niya akong inaaya after practice, bigyan ko daw siya ng tip. Ayun nagtuloy-tuloy na,” said Ildefonso.
“Lagi kami nun nag-e-extra training. Gina-guide ko siya sa one-on-one, post-up moves at paint positioning para mas maayos na magamit niya size niya,” Ildefonso added. “Kahit nga ngayon na naka-benda yung kamay ko, tinuturuan ko pa rin siya, para tuloy-tuloy ang training niya.
"Pero siyempre, talagang talented na si June Mar. Hindi ko sinasabi na ako nagturo lahat. Kaya nga top pick siya sa last draft, di ba?"
Saturday's breakout game may even revive Fajardo's shot at the Rookie of the Year award, said Ildefonso, so long as Petron keeps winning in the mid-season conference.
“Malaki pa rin chance niya dun, basta importante umangat yung team, para angat din siya,” he added. “Pag halimbawa na nag-champion kami ngayong conference, kaya yun."
Alaska Aces super rookie Calvin Abueva has opened a wide gap in the rookie race, but Ildefonso feels it is not too late for Fajardo to catch up.
“Depende kasi talaga yan kung ano mangyayari ngayong conference. Basta sabi ko lang kay June Mar, wag niyang isipin yun, ang tandaan niya kailangang umangat ang team,” Ildefonso said.